ICO Tells Google To Fix Its Privacy Policy

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Watchdog wants Google to change its policy but it’s unlikely to fine it

The UK privacy watchdog. the has told Google to fix its privacy policy by 20 September or it risks enforcement action, but TechWeekEurope understands it is unlikely the tech titan would be hit with a fine even if it did nothing.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has written to Google today, giving it until 20 September to make it clearer to UK users how their data will be used across all of the company’s products.

Google is unlikely to face a fine, as it would have to be proven there was genuine distress caused by the policy, an ICO spokesperson said.

google-london-officeICO angry, but unlikely to fine

“Google must now amend their privacy policy to make it more informative for individual service users. Failure to take the necessary action to improve the policy’s compliance with the Data Protection Act by 20 September will leave the company open to the possibility of formal enforcement action,” an ICO spokesperson said, in a statement.

The Internet giant came in for heavy criticism last year, when it rolled all of its separate privacy policies into one document, saying it could share user data across its various services, even including services which a given customer doesn’t use.

The Article 29 Working Party, led by French regulator CNIL, said last month Google had not been compliant with its demands to change the policy, so its members were now considering how to punish Google. No fines have been ordered thus far.

Google isn’t willing to budge much from its comments. “Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services,” a spokesperson said.

“We have engaged fully with the authorities involved throughout this process, and we’ll continue to do so going forward.”

But Google has been slapped with monetary penalties for other breaches of European data protection laws, in particular for hoovering up people’s data during its Street View rounds. Both France and Germany handed Google fines, for €100,000 and €140,000 respectively.

Yet the ICO chose not to fine Google, instead simply asking it to delete the remaining data affecting UK citizens.

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